953 Tasting Notes


Back to this one to do a proper, unrushed tasting.

I’ll be drinking it out of my new, very cute, tiny bubble cup from DAVIDSTea (one of my tea ware purchases from my excursion yesterday).

I wrote my first note about a DAVIDSTea tea yesterday and was so excited to share in the fun with all of you who drink them a lot, and wouldn’t you know it, it never showed up on my dashboard and apparently got buried during the dashboard freeze yesterday. It’s there in my tea log, though. Does this happen to anyone else when the freezes occur? Anyway, I feel compelled to repeat that I did not buy any tea except for the cup I bought to drink in the store. Lockdown is still in effect and I managed to resist and get out with only a couple of tea ware items. Bubble cups, yay!

In the tin, this smells very floral. I get a lot of rose, a little lavender and really no rosemary at all. It’s so pretty to look at with the different colors and all the little buds and petals.

The rosemary comes out in the steeped aroma and it is the most prominent scent I get. The floral notes are present, but for the most part seem subsumed to the savory one. Though if I sit with the aroma long enough, I am able to smell a really nice rose and a lavender undercurrent that, from time to time, trades places with the rosemary.

The tea looks a reddish mahogany color in the little bubble cup.

Hot, this is much less of a single-note savory tea than I experienced when I drank it cool.
In fact, I wouldn’t say it’s savory at all contrary to my initial experience. I’d say it’s floral, with a light spice to it that presents as a cooling sensation in the sip with more rosemary in the aftertaste.

Where is the bergamot in all of this? I’m not tasting it. It’s possible it’s there among the floral mélange, but I can’t isolate it. The other S&V Earl I had was also light on the bergamot, so this isn’t surprising to me. I am beginning to suspect that bergamot is the first flavor/scent to go when an Earl ages and given that these were not removed from their original paper bag packaging, it’s possible the bergamot has flown the coop.

That said, this is a really unique flavor and I’m intrigued enough to want to try with a fresher sample. I can’t give it high marks for meeting the basic criteria of an Earl Grey because of the lack of bergamot, but I am putting it on the list to occupy one of the anterooms in the pantheon at least temporarily.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 25 OZ / 750 ML

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drank Almond Oolong by Adagio Teas
953 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 88 of the year 2014. This was my only sipdown eligible tea that wasn’t a black, a green or a white. Once again I’ve managed to avoid having to sip down the Vanilla Comoro, but I worry that I’ll have a tight back in the morning.

My experience with this this evening is very similar to yesterday, though I managed to avoid the oversteeping and so managed to avoid the somewhat stewed and bitter-edged steeps among the four I did. Though I know there’s likely to be more caffeine in the first couple of steeps, I drew the line at four just in case it helped.

Final verdict: not bad almond flavor, but not much oolong in the mix. Likely not a restock for me unless I’m (for some reason) craving almond oolong and can’t find one with more oolong flavor later in my tea travels.

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drank Fantasy Island by DAVIDsTEA
953 tasting notes

When I first heard of David’s Tea it was only in Canada. Two summers ago, while we were vacationing, I visited a location in Banff. That was in the middle of my tea hiatus, though, so it was sort of a weird one-off experience. I remember thinking the store was lovely and the tiny sample of tea I tasted, which I think was a jasmine green, was also lovely.

Fast forward to 2014 and my re-entry into tea. Come to find out, there is a David’s a few towns north of us now, in Burlingame, CA. Today we were running errands up and down the peninsula and stopped in.

First I have to congratulate myself: I did not walk out of there with any tea except the cup of this I bought. It took a Herculean effort not to rattle off my wish list to the salesperson, but I restrained myself and bought only a few tea ware items. No. 2 tried the Birthday Cake iced (it ended up being too much for him to finish), the BF had Redberry Tonic iced (he loves hibiscus, go figure) and I had this.

It being my first experience of buying hot tea at David’s, I did not realize until much later that there was actually a teabag in the cup. I guess I had the cup turned the wrong way and didn’t see the string, which was tucked under a paper wrapper around the cup, and when I did, I wasn’t sure what it was. I figured they’d use loose leaf in the preparation. Anyway, that bag stayed in there much too long. So I have to mentally discount for that and for the paper drinking vessel.

After doing so, I thought this was quite good. The raspberry seemed just right. The coconut was tasty and mixed nicely with the raspberry, but struck me as a little too much and a little too sweet. I wonder whether that was because of the over-steeping? It had the aspect of a dessert tea, and I think if I was going to try it again, I’d do so as a dessert substitute. I would like to try it again without the over-steeping and in a non-paper cup.

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Made some of this, put in in a tumbler and took it with me while we ran errands today. I used less leaf this time and also a bit lower temp and longer steep time. The flavor did seem to have more vanilla that way, but something still wasn’t working quite right for me in the balance. As the tea got cooler, the vanilla came out more and more and actually became almost too sweet toward the end.

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After my two highly flavored experiences this morning I needed a palate cleanser.

Gosh, I’m looking back at my original note on this and I see that the exterior lighting project that we just recently finished was started four years ago. OMG! We started the project, we got busy with other things and dropped it, then we went back to it. I have to say if I was the only person whose opinion had to be taken into account it would have been done faster. ;-) But it got done and it’s amazing, so there’s that.

In any case, this is tasting pretty much as described in my original note. Except the cola I noted before… well, I’m not getting that this time. ;-)

It is an excellent palate cleanser, though. I can feel its briskness cutting through all the stuff I tasted this morning and replacing it with a nice, medium strength, naturally sweet tea flavor.

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drank Maple Bacon by Man Teas
953 tasting notes

After the Buttered Cinnamon Raisin Toast I decided to try some of this. It was still sealed, though it’s an old package.

I really didn’t get much of a smell of bacon or maple out of the dry leaf. Steeped, I certainly get something like maple. It’s a sort of a caramel-y smell. But not anything that smells like bacon. I’d sort of expected to be hit over the head with bacon.

But interestingly, as the tea gets cooler, something like bacon does come out in the aroma. A bit of a smoked meat smell, but sweet because of the influence of the maple.

And yeah, the same happens with the flavor. It really is maple bacon, but it doesn’t become obvious until the tea gets cooler.

I have to award all sorts of points for pulling off this flavor in a way that isn’t a generic lapsangy smoked jerky flavor. I may even like the flavor better than the raisin toast because it’s lacking the artificial note I experienced with the buttered cinnamon raisin toast.

But unless something happens in repeat tastings to change my initial feeling about this, it isn’t something I could drink beyond this packet. I’m having some sort of taste-related cognitive dissonance thing going on in my head as I drink this that makes the experience of it disconcerting in a way that isn’t entirely pleasurable and I’m feeling it in my stomach.

Boiling 4 min, 30 sec 3 tsp 25 OZ / 750 ML

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No. 1 is at a sleepover, no. 2 and I just finished watching March of the Penguins, and I realized I hadn’t had any tea yet today! No breakfast really either, just a bit of fruit. The BF is responsible for this pick. I thought he’d go for the Maple Bacon, but this was his vote.

I can definitely smell the raisins in the packet, and something like buttered toast too.

After steeping the aroma is unbelievable—exactly like buttered cinnamon raisin toast! I’m not sure how 52 Teas accomplished this but I suspect it wasn’t straightforward. I detect a floral note underlying the aroma. The tea is a clear reddishy-orangy-brown, so the raisins, cinnamon and whatever else is in here to give this flavor isn’t clouding up the works.

Now, understanding that this is one of my elderly 52 Teas collection and that I had apparently tasted it before because the packet was opened, though ziplocked (it seems I didn’t write a note about it when I last tasted it), I’ll say this—I taste toast, I taste butter. I taste just enough raisin and cinnamon so that it isn’t plain buttered toast. Of all the flavors, I probably get the cinnamon the least, which is surprising. And I am not really tasting the tea, except through the floral note mentioned earlier. But you don’t really drink a tea like this for the tea, do you?

I have to give it high marks for living up to its name so well. I could use a touch more cinnamon, but who is to say whether there was more when this was fresh? The fact that it has held most of its unusual flavor merits points, too. The only downside, and the reason I didn’t rate it higher, is that there’s an aspect to the flavor that makes me worry that the novelty will wear off really fast with this one. There’s a fine line with the floral note between conjuring the buttered cinnamon raisin toast experience and something artificial tasting.

The BF says: “I like it!”

I asked whether he tasted buttered cinnamon raisin toast.

“I don’t know, but I like it!”


Boiling 4 min, 30 sec 3 tsp 25 OZ / 750 ML

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drank Welcome by Art of Tea
953 tasting notes

I’ve tasted a lot of chamomile in various guises lately, some good, some not so good. This blend isn’t doing a lot for me.

The chamomile smells sweet in the packet. The rest of the ingredients make for a very rich smelling blend, with more than floral notes—there’s something almost like cocoa to its depth. It’s also lovely to look at (like its picture).

Once it is steeped, though, the chamomile becomes more of a sharp, pungent note in the aroma, and the rest of the ingredients don’t pull together as a team to balance it out. It steeps to a pretty, clear yellow color.

The flavor is much like the aroma. It’s not as sweet as the dry mixture’s aroma promised. There’s a little tartness from the rose hips. The lavender and rose are very faint, and I don’t taste the peppercorn. I don’t get much spice to this. On balance, I’d rather have sweetness than spice, though.

I’m wondering whether more leaf would make a difference. It seems to me that if the chamomile has a sweet, fresh smell in the packet, that should be indicative of how it will taste after steeping. That it doesn’t here makes me wonder if I need to perfect my preparation methods. It’s almost sweet, but not quite. On the other hand, it could be that the tartness of the rose hips is the culprit. I think it’s the hibiscus in Tazo’s Calm that makes the chamomile in that one problematic for me. I like this better than Calm, but not as well as Harney’s Yellow and Blue.

Boiling 6 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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drank Kapha Balance by Shanti Tea
953 tasting notes

Sipdown no. 87 of the year 2014. Terri HarpLady is kicking my butt at sipdowns. ;-) I noticed she’s surpassed the 90 mark today and she is only counting from the last week or so, I think, not from the first of the year as I am. What an inspiration!

This part is me thinking out loud about sipdowns so you can skip this paragraph if you want to read my thoughts on the tisane, most of which are contained in my previous note on this. Part of my slowdown is because I am running short of single serving samples and one-off teabag samples so I now mostly have sample sizes that generate at least two tastings worth and more frequently 3-5 and/or full size tins. This is certainly the case for herbal blends and greens and to some extent blacks and whites. I have a fair number of single serving oolong and pu-erh samples still, but I find myself saving them because pu-erhs in particular intimidate me just a bit and oolongs require savoring. I’m still trying to arrange things so that I have at least one and (if things go well) I hope more than one sipdown a day for the foreseeable future.

The Shanti samples seem to be two-serving samples. Or more accurately, four serving samples. But since the Breville makes a minimum of two servings a go, I get two tastings out of this size of sample.

It seems, if anything, much more savory tonight. Almost brothy, as though there’s some salt in there somewhere. It doesn’t taste like bouillon but it reminds me of it.

Not a wishlist item for me, but interesting to try.

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drank Sleep Tight by TeaGschwendner
953 tasting notes

I seem to be having a run at savory flavored herbal blends these days. I didn’t realize I had so many in my stash. It’s particularly puzzling because, as I’m discovering having had them three nights in a row, I have a threshold for savory herbal blends and three nights in a row is well beyond that threshold. I’ve discovered that for me they are much more of a sometime thing. I’m not sure I’d think to have one all that often if I wasn’t reacclimatizing myself to my stash and finding that I have a number of them.

My original note on this indicated that is has a savory taste, and it does. And reading that note I’ve figured out why I think I find the savory flavor a sometime thing. It has a medicinal association for me. Not logical, but there you have it. Fortunately, the savory flavor isn’t as intense as it has been in some other tisanes I’ve had recently, like the Shanti Kapha Balance and of course the plain Holy Basil from Upton.

My previous note said this reminded me of chamomile, though there’s no chamomile in it. This time I’m not really tasting chamomile. Probably because I’ve had some really good (as chamomile goes) chamomile recently and I know how sweet it can taste. This tisane isn’t sweet.

I am noticing a sort of a minty cooling feel, though, which is also interesting because there’s no mint in this. I find it fascinating that I taste flavors in this that don’t originate in its ingredients.

It’s the kind of thing I’d drink if I had it around (as I’m doing now) but now that I know what it’s like, I’d likely choose another decaf option next time I order.

Boiling 7 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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I’ve updated this bio as it’s been a couple of years since I “started getting into” tea. It’s now more accurate to say that I was obsessed with tea for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it, and I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I’ve recently started writing fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I much prefer to drink tea without additives such as milk and sugar. If a tea needs additives to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’m going to rate it high. The exception is chai, which I make on the stove top using a recipe I found here on Steepster. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs into the harder stuff, but once I learned how to make a decent cup of tea they became far less appealing to me. That said, I’m not entirely a purist, and I enjoy a good flavored tea, particularly flavored blacks.

I like all kinds of tea depending on time of day, mood, and the amount of time I have to pay attention to preparation.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. I’m revising them slightly to make them less granular as I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas against other similar versions. So I rate Earl Greys, for example, against other Earl Greys, rather than against all teas. If something rates very high with me, though, it probably means it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is; will keep this stocked until the cows come home

90-94 First rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Excellent; likely to become a favorite, will likely buy more

70-79 Very good; would enjoy again, might buy again if in the mood for this particular one or a better, similar version not available

60-69 Good; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but probably wouldn’t buy again unless craving this particular flavor

50-59 Okay or run of the mill

Below 50 So-so, iffy, would definitely pass
or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.


Bay Area, California



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